Summary: A sermon admonishing young people to set an example with their lives

Just Do It!

A sermon on 1st Timothy 4:12

Today is Scholarship Sunday. Scholarship Sunday is the day each year when we, as a church, demonstrate our commitment to our community’s young people as they pursue their Education. And it is a privilege for us to be involved in this!

Today’s Text

Our New Testament Reading for today, 1st Timothy 4:12, is addressed to young people. As Dave read, the Apostle Paul was writing to young Timothy. And he wrote, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.’ (1st Timothy 4:12, NRS)

Timothy was being criticized for being too young to be in leadership

Now the context of these words, the reason the Apostle Paul wrote these lines to Timothy, was that Timothy was being criticized for his leadership. [1] There wasn’t anything wrong with Timothy’s leadership per se, with the things the young man was doing as a leader. Rather, Timothy was being criticized for being too young to be a leader, - too young to hold the level of responsibility that a leader in the church finds himself or herself in. [2] Now that wasn’t the only root of the problem. Timothy’s teachings were at odds with his critics’. [3] But here, Timothy was taking flak for being too young to have the kinds of responsibilities he held in life. [4]

How should we handle criticism?

And what was Timothy suppose to do about that? How was he supposed to handle this criticism? ‘Well, we learn to handle criticism in different ways. Sometimes we leave. Sometimes we go quiet. Sometimes we lash back in anger.’ But the Apostle Paul’s advice [5] to Timothy as to how he should handle criticism was, ‘Don’t give those peoples any grounds for criticism’.

Set an Example

‘Set an example!’ Paul told him, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers!’ ‘What comes to mind when you think of: Richard Nixon, or Monica Lewinsky, Pete Rose, Jimmy Swaggart? [6]’ What kind of ‘example’ did those people set for us with their lives? What sort of example did they leave us? Paul tells young Timothy to ‘set an example’.

Example in what?

But an example in what? Well, Paul here cites five areas where this young man, or any of us for that matter, might set an example with our lives. [7] He lists: ‘speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.’ Two of them, speech and behavior, refer to our public life, what other people are see about us. And three of them, love, faith, and purity, - they are more inner qualities. They have to do with our inner selves, the life of our spirit, our hearts. They are inner qualities. But our inner qualities, they have a way of coming out, manifesting themselves, in our public lives. People see them in our daily walk. So our spirits offer up examples. But Paul cites these five areas where young Timothy might ‘set an example’ to those around him: ‘speech, behavior, love, faith and purity.’

1. Set an example in Speech

He begins by telling Timothy to, ‘set an example in speech’. And it is not surprising that speech is the first thing Paul mentions. Because, our speech has such an impact on the world around us! How do you feel when you’re criticized? Contrast that with how you feel when you’re honored! Our speech has a huge impact on the people around us! [8] Paul reminds us first and foremost to, ‘Set an example with our speech’. And whether that be through tone of voice or the words we choose, we should, as Christians, ‘Set the world an example with our speech’.

2. Set an example in Behavior

Paul also tells us to ‘set an example…with our life.’ The word there in the Greek is literally, ‘behavior’ or ‘conduct’. We should ‘set an example with our conduct.’

I’ll see you right after the resurrection!

I was reading online the other day. ‘A while back there was an incident at a Passion Play, in the scene where Jesus carries the cross. As the play was proceeding, a man in the audience started heckling the actor playing Jesus, with taunts and dares. At first the actor just ignored it. But the guy kept going on and on. Finally the actor playing Jesus he gets really mad and he blows up. He throws down his cross. He charges out into the audience. And he hauls off and punches the guy. The two were broken apart. And Jesus started apologizing profusely. But the director said to him, ‘Look I don’t care if you’re the real Jesus! You ever pull a stunt like that again and you’re fired! The next night the same heckler was back doing the same thing. At first Jesus just ignored it. But as the heckler kept going on and on, Jesus got madder and madder. He started trembling. Finally, the man playing Jesus throws down his cross and shouts at the heckler, "I’ll deal with you! - right after the resurrection!"’

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Eugene Nunamaker

commented on Dec 28, 2017

Very good sermon for kids!

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